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The Affective Role of the Teachers in the Information Age Classroom

Final Report Summary - ARTIAC (The Affective Role of the Teachers in the Information Age Classroom)

Project ARTIAC (Affective Role of the Teacher in the Information Age Classroom) aimed at having a deep understanding of the changing role of teachers in today's technology-enriched classrooms. It was focused on one-to-one computing initiatives, in which every student (and the teacher) has an Internet-connected digital device (usually tablets or laptops). The main goal was to understand how teaching in such a technology-enriched environment impacts teachers' daily job - including aspects that are beyond the very classroom instruction - as well as their beliefs and attitudes.

As part of the project, a few studies were taken, each addressing a certain aspect of the major goal, and together they help us to gain a deep understanding of the issue. Following is a short description of these studies.

Study 1: Classroom Dynamics in One-to-One Classrooms
The main objective of this study was to analyze classroom dynamics—specifically instructional strategy, teacher's location and teacher-student interactions—in the one-to-one classroom. We developed a mobile app for data collection, which allowed us to easily record fine-grained data in the field and to have it ready for analysis once the observation is over. We thoroughly studied three elementary school teachers using Quantitative Field Observations (QFO). Findings suggest that the use of tablets increased the potential for close, non-public student-teacher interactions, as it extended the time allocated to learner-centered activities (individual- and pair-work). However, this potential is not always satisfied, as teachers may use the time spent by students on independently-taken activities to work on their own tasks instead of "being there" for their students.

Study 2: Teacher-Student Interactions in Technology-Enhanced Classrooms
The main objective of this study was to explore how technology-enhanced classrooms are characterized by multiple dimensions of student-teacher classroom interaction that are linked to student achievement and development. Here too, we used QFO in order to thoroughly study three middle-school teachers. Findings from this study suggest that during 1:1 sessions, learning was more learner-centered, and that overall teacher-student relationship was more positive than during traditional sessions.

Study 3: Classroom Climate in One-to-One Classrooms
This quantitative study (N=111 middle- and high-school teachers) aimed at identifying changes in the classroom environment during 1:1 lessons, compared to traditional teaching. As the findings from this study suggest, most of the teachers in schools that implemented 1:1 computing programs did use the computers frequently and extensively, however they did not necessarily implemented meaningful learning using the computers. Participative learning and classroom involvement were higher in the 1:1 lessons, and structure and focus was higher for the teachers who used the computers most frequently.

Study 4: Teachers' Academic and Emotional Support to Students in one-to-one Classrooms
The main objective of this quantitative study (N=66 middle- and high-school teachers) was to explore teachers' perceptions of their role in promoting academic and emotional aspects of learning in 1:1 classes, compared to traditional teaching. One-to-one lessons facilitated more learner-centered learning, compared to traditional lessons, including a better academic and emotional support. These differences of teachers' role in 1:1 settings may promote teacher-student relationship at large.

Study 5: Teachers' Perception of One-to-One Teaching
The main goal of this qualitative study (N=14 elementary- and middle-school teachers) was to explore teachers' perceptions of the various implications of 1:1 computing programs on teaching. Some themes that were identified from this study are relevant to student-teacher relationship. Overall, the narrative identified in this study is one that characterizes 1:1 lessons as catalysts for enjoyable, engaging, active learner-centered activities, which allow the teacher to successfully interact with the students – more than traditional lessons.

Study 6: Impact of One-to-One Teaching on Teachers' Out-of-Class Work
The main objective of this quantitative study (N=37 middle- and high-school teachers) was to study the effects of using 1:1 computers in the classroom on the teacher's role out of the classroom. Findings from this study suggest that in 1:1 teaching, as compared to traditional teaching, teachers benefit from the richness of resources—but do not otherwise prepare themselves differently to classes—and from more ways to assess their students. They manage their teaching better, and develop better professionally mostly in the community-related sense but not necessarily personally.

Taken together, these studies point out to some positive changes in teachers' affective support to students in one-to-one lessons, in teacher-student relationship at large and in teachers' beliefs about their role in such settings. However, these changes are mostly modifying existing teaching practices and are not used to transform teaching in new ways.

Findings from this project have important practical aspects regarding the teaching practice and teacher education. Hence, this project might assist in reducing socio-economic gaps, doing so by improving the use of technology in education. Allowing a more effective, efficient technology implementation in the classroom is a first step towards a much greater change. Our unique contribution lies in the fact that the project has been focused less on the academic, cognitive aspects of learning, and more on the emotional, affective aspects of it. This way, teachers can rather quickly implement some of the project findings, e.g. reflecting upon their beliefs, or paying more attention to their relationship with their students. Integrating such insights in teacher education might largely extend the effects of the project.